9-1-1 Leadership. How do you know if you are a leader or a manager?  Certainly if you Google this topic you will get a laundry list of different articles or answers.  There are many well known spiritual leaders who have written numerous books on leadership, my favorite being Bill Hybels.  I would like to take an approach that comes from personal work experience as well as a biblical example.  I have never seen it explained the way I will attempt to in this blog.  I like to call this the 9-1-1 approach to leadership.  The “9” stands for the 90% that is working correctly in your organization day in and day out.  Let’s face it, not everything is broken on a daily basis.  If you are a positive person it is easy for you to identify the areas that are hitting on all cylinders.  The first “1” stands for the 10% that is not going well and is causing you headaches.  Some organizations recognize the 10%, while others do not even know the 10% exist.  And the last “1” stand for the up to 10 times longer it will take to identify, fix and change the behavior behind the 10% not going well.

So back to the initial question, how do you know if you are a leader or a manager?  In my opinion, if you focus and spend a majority of your time on the 90% that is going well…then I would call you a manager.  However, if you spend most of your time and energy in the 10% area that is not going well…I would call you a leader.  Managers keep the organization rolling and steering the ship on a day to day basis.  They are there to “manage” what processes/policies already exist within the organization.  They quickly identify situations that start to slip or get out of whack with what is the norm.  Managers have typically been handed a proven solution and told to carry on the way it was designed.

On the other side, leaders tend to indentify, react and solve the challenges causing the organization’s 10% problems. It takes special characteristics to be able to first identify the problems, then to be able to put in place an action plan that will “change behavior”. The task of changing behavior is absolutely critical to solving the 10% problem. Some leaders fail because they identify the problem, yet fail to implement the proper tools and guidance to change the behavior behind the problems. Leaders are out in front of the managers and the daily troops identifying the 10% and other issues and surprises that are coming. Let me add here, that a leader who solely focuses on the 10% will not be a very popular leader among the masses of the organization. A well balanced leader needs to spend some time on the 90%, as to reward, encourage and reinforce the day to day agents who are getting it done in the trenches. In my experience, I like to talk about the 90% publicly in employee meetings or while I am walking the floor among the masses. I try to talk about the 10% behind closed doors with the managers and the ones that need to help solve the identified 10% problem.

I believe Jesus would take a very similar approach if he was running an organization today. Jesus was the ultimate example of leadership, and in His parable of the lost sheep, the Sheppard left the 99 sheep to find the one that was lost, see Matthew 18: 10-14. In the parable, the Sheppard could have easily stayed in the field and “managed” the 99, yet he took it upon himself as “leader” of the flock to find the one that was causing problems. I know we are not talking about lost souls, but why would I not follow a great biblical example of how to lead the “flock” or in today’s terms…the organization.

Definition of a Problem: What do I have, and what do I want…the gap between those two is the problem. -A.R. Bernard

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